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GBC Notebook: Greenbrier Classic offers a course in history

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- There were plenty of reasons why golfers were beaming about The Greenbrier Classic on Monday as they prepared for the tournament.

For some, it was the ease of access for their families.

For others, it was the majestic beauty of the state and the vast number of things to do while staying at The Greenbrier Resort.

But, the one thing golfers spoke of first was the rich tradition of the resort.

"The traditional golfer would say that everyone knows The Greenbrier because the players not only have known about it but they finally have a tournament here to see what it's all about," said John Daly, who teed off Monday with resort owner Jim Justice in a Pro-Am tournament.

As golfers filed in to The Greenbrier over the past few days, they learned about the course's storied history which dates back to 1914 when the Old White TPC golf course, formerly known as The Old White, opened.

One of the first golfers to ever hit the course was President Woodrow Wilson, who played in April 1914.

While its beginnings offered many moments of presidents and some of the nation's leaders taking aim at the 18-hole course, some of its better-known notoriety came about much later in its existence.

Many of golf's greats -- Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson -- have frequented the course, but the golfer who put Old White on the map was Sam Snead.

"Slammin' Sammy" was the face of professional golf for more than four decades, winning a record 82 PGA Tour events and seven major tournaments. He was also named as the head pro at The Greenbrier in 1944 -- a position he held until his death four days shy of his 90th birthday in 2002.

While some of the younger golfers on tour never got the chance to meet Snead, his impact on the game has been felt and those students of the game love to come to White Sulphur Springs to brush up on their history pertaining to the game they love.

Golf is the mainstay on the minds of the players, but the history goes well-beyond just what has happened on the course, and many players take their families -- especially their kids -- to check out the rich history beyond sport that is offered by the trip.

Boo Weekley said despite being a golfer, learning about the background of The Greenbrier has been one of his favorite aspects of taking part in the tournament.

That includes a trip through the bunker that Congress had built during the Cold War to serve as a top secret safe-haven, even though it never was activated.

"As someone who loves history, going to see the bunker, that means a lot to us," Weekley said. "My kid loves history, too, and I got to tell him about it the first time I went and brought him a brochure -- you can't take photos -- but I described it and the history. He got to reading it and loved it. Now, he wants to come up and see it."

Bubba Watson, one of the most popular golfers on the PGA Tour, got his taste of life at The Greenbrier last week when Justice, chairman of The Greenbrier Classic, met with him and explained the tradition.

Justice said Watson has been beyond impressed by his visit thus far.

"He's wowed by this place and by our state," Justice said. "He just stood and looked and he said 'Do you ever really get overwhelmed with the level of blessing you have to just be able to be here and look at this?'"

More recently, The Greenbrier Classic is contributing to the course's vast history.

Stuart Appleby is here after his final-round 59 won the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.

Both Scott Stallings and Ted Potter, Jr., made their own personal history with a pair of playoff wins in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

So, what new piece of history does The Greenbrier Classic have in store for 2013?

That has yet to be etched into the 100-year-old book named "Old White."

CARTER TEES IT UP: Huntington's Pat Carter took part in a practice round Monday morning.

Carter qualified for the 2013 Greenbrier Classic by winning the 2012 West Virginia Amateur. The insurance executive is well-versed at The Greenbrier's courses, having won 12 of his 13 state amateur titles at one of the resort's courses.

Monday served as his first look at what the course will be like in championship form.

"I don't know how well I'll play, but it'll be fun," Carter said. "I got 14 holes in today and it's a real challenge. The course is tough. These guys will probably not have as much trouble as I do. It's a bit longer than what I'm used to playing. If I drive it well -- and I drove it well today -- I can play it, but it will still be tough."

Carter has a Tuesday morning practice round with Charles Howell III.

PIGSKIN PRESENCE: There will be a bit of a football flavor this week at The Greenbrier Classic.

On Monday, former NFL wide receiver Cris Collinsworth took part in the Pro-Am, teaming with pro Steven Bowditch.

Later this week, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be present to caddie for good friend Ryan Palmer, one of the golfers in the 156-man field.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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